Friday, January 11

Review: Hive Jump [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Indie titles, as a whole, tend to be more focused and “smaller” experiences than their more full-blown (and expensive) counterparts. Depending on the genre and the example this can sometimes work out just fine, with the title still being satisfying, but it can also make them feel frustratingly like they come up short or too limited. In the case of Hive Jump I’d say it’s right about in the middle, with a sort of corridor shooting experience that’s satisfying for a while but that ultimately can feel a bit grindy and too similar really get to the next level.

Initially there’s a lot to get accustomed to, and one particular mechanic is unusual but gets to be convenient once you embrace it. What you’ll quickly find is that the “jumper” you control as you move through the hive is expendable. You essentially have an unlimited supply of them that will warp in when the last one dies. The trick is that ability is tied to a backpack that they wear, and if your jumper dies there’ll be a window of time where the backpack is then vulnerable. Once it is destroyed your run is then over. It’s a smart move and does create some moments of tension as well as smart strategy.

Taking that element into account most of the action is pretty straightforward. You’ll infiltrate the hive, wreck any bugs you come across (there will be quite a lot in volume, if not variety), destroy the spots they spawn from, and go deeper into the hive until you come to a boss. As you go you’ll collect yellow goo that you will then be able to buy upgrades with. The shop has a variety of guns, grenades, and added equipment that will give you a variety of configurations from ranged to up close and personal. Solo you’ll likely need to go with something versatile but with some friends I’d imagine having a specialist who can do things like heal the others would be a smart strategy. Between missions you’ll manage a pretty basic overworld map where you can build up your strongholds so they can repel hive attacks and initiate taking down their bases by working through your shooting runs. Once you knock them back far enough you’ll then take on a queen in a deeper and tougher hive and that amps up the challenge quite a lot.

As much as I enjoy the core experience, shooting things up, going through special doors with tough sections you’ll need to carefully get through to gain perks, and surviving hive swarms, it was hard to ignore the repetition that will set in. Once you get a gear configuration that works for you and you settle in you’ll discover that there simple isn’t very much variety to the hives. They’re procedurally generated and the layouts will always be different but that doesn’t mean the feel doesn’t get familiar. Part of the issue is likely that there simply aren’t that many types of bugs to destroy and their attack patterns are always the same. What’s initially intimidating loses its edge once it becomes predictable. You can still get overwhelmed in certain situations but it does begin to feel like more of a grind, especially in a longer hive trying to get to the queen. In some ways the modes outside of the campaign reinforce this problem, they provide a different run setup but the elements are all shared so there’s nothing fresh about them.

I really appreciate the core bones of what Hive Jump offers, and for the first few hours while I was still getting into my groove it was quite a bit of fun. Familiarity, once it sets in, really wears on the experience though and while taking down the hive queen is a challenge there’s simply a lot of repetition to be had getting there which ends up feeling a bit pointless and for its own sake. With some support things get a bit chaotic and busy but the ability to have some more diverse builds that compliment each other does change things up a bit so that’s a plus. I’d love to see a more fleshed out sequel with more enemy variety and surprises, the core experience is there and it’s a good one, there’s just no missing the grind once it sets in.

Score: 7.5

  • A variety of weapon and gear choices allow you to find your own style
  • The unlimited jumpers but only one backpack mechanic is a smart one that works well
  • Battling against the bosses and the hive queen can have some challenging thrills

  • Once you really get rolling repetition sets in
  • The majority of the time in the hive you’re dealing with a limited variety of enemies who always attack in the same general patterns, making it feel grindy
  • The overworld component lacks in strategy and is a missed opportunity